Top 20 Products That Were Banned After People Died
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Products That Were Banned After People Died.
For this list, we’ll be looking at various items, not including medical products, that were banned or recalled after someone passed away using them.
Which of these stories do you think is the scariest? Let us know in the comments below!
#20: Burger King Pokéballs
In the late ‘90s, Burger King looked to get in on the Pokémon craze. To promote “The First Movie,” the fast food giant gave away dozens of Pokémon toys inside small, plastic Pokéballs. Unfortunately, these proved a choking hazard for young children. On December 11, 1999, a 13-month-old baby suffocated to death on one of the Pokéballs, prompting officials to demand a recall. Burger King refused, stating their desire for an autopsy report proving that the Pokéball had caused her death. A few weeks later, an 18-month-old nearly suffocated on another Pokéball but was saved by her father. It was only then that Burger King agreed to recall the item, and they were fiercely criticized for their slow response.
In the mid-’90s, various companies were ordered to recall their mini net hammocks, as they came without spreader bars. Without these spreader bars, the hammocks were not held open and had a tendency to twist around people who were entering or exiting the hammock. This was especially problematic for young children, who were prone to strangulation owing to their small and easily-caught throats. The Consumer Product Safety Commission received reports of 12 deaths between 1984 and 1995, prompting them to officially recall and ban the sale of Hang Ten and Twin Oaks mini-hammocks in 1996.
#18: Peloton Tread+
The COVID pandemic has greatly increased the popularity of Peloton treadmills as people look to exercise in the safety of their homes. Unfortunately, heavy and speedy exercise equipment comes with an inherent danger factor. In March 2021, Peloton revealed that a young child had tragically passed away in an accident involving their Tread+ treadmill. The following month, the CPSC asked consumers to stop using the product, citing the aforementioned death and dozens of other injuries involving both pets and humans. In May - two months after the child’s death - Peloton finally succumbed to industry pressure and recalled all of their Tread and Tread+ products while apologizing for the delay in action.
#17: Reebok Heart-Shaped Charm Bracelets
Between 2004 and 2006, Reebok gave away heart-shaped charm bracelets at nationwide shoe retailers. The bracelets were a free gift that could be obtained from buying certain brands of children’s shoes. Measuring about eight inches long, the charm bracelets were silver in color and the name “Reebok” was engraved on the heart. Unfortunately, these bracelets were found to contain dangerous levels of lead, and a four-year-old child from Minnesota tragically passed away from lead poisoning after swallowing a piece of the bracelet. A voluntary recall was issued in March of 2006, banning the gifting and reselling of Reebok charm bracelets.
#16: Audi TT Type 8N
While still in production today, the Audi TT - specifically the Type 8N - received some significant press coverage in the late ‘90s and early 2000s owing to numerous fatalities associated with the car. The 2000 Audi TT suffered from stabilizer issues, resulting in a loss of control at high speeds. Fatal accidents typically occurred when drivers were recklessly speeding and either making sharp turns or abrupt lane changes. The cars would veer out of control and either roll over or smash into the nearest obstacle, killing the occupants. Audi recalled the vehicles and replaced various parts, including the front and rear stabilizers, control arms, and shock absorbers.
An evergreen tree from Southeast Asia, kratom is used for a wide variety of purposes. It treats chronic pain and withdrawal symptoms, increases alertness and energy like caffeine, and is used in a similar manner to alcohol to improve sociability. Unfortunately, it also comes with a slew of adverse effects, including death. Hundreds of people have reportedly died from kratom overdose, including 152 people in the United States between 2016 and 2017. While popular for its purported health benefits, kratom is banned in a number of countries, including Ireland. Indonesia will make the plant illegal in 2022, and the FDA banned the import of kratom in 2014.
#14: Jalisco Mexican Products
Los Angeles was rocked by a horrible outbreak of listeriosis throughout 1985. A bacterial infection, listeriosis targets pregnant women and newborns with particular alacrity. Unfortunately, the 1985 outbreak resulted in the deaths of 10 newborns and 18 adults while simultaneously causing 20 miscarriages. The tragic cases were eventually linked to Jalisco Mexican Products, a company that manufactured Mexican cheese. The company’s unlicensed employees were reportedly making the cheese with raw milk in its unsanitary plants, resulting in the fatal bacterial infections. Following a massive recall of the cheese, Jalisco’s owner and head cheesemaker were sent to prison, and the company eventually shuttered its doors.
#13: Peanut Corp. Peanut Butter
The United States was very weary of peanut butter in the late 2000s. According to the CDC, over 700 people had fallen ill and nine had died after suffering a nasty case of Salmonella. However, the real number was probably much higher, as many cases of salmonella go unreported. A massive investigation was launched combining the forces of the FDA and the CDC, and the outbreak was traced to Peanut Corp.’s processing plant. The case was historic for a number of reasons. Not only did it launch the biggest food recall in American history, but it also resulted in the harshest punishment ever given in a food-related court case; Stewart Parnell, the owner of Peanut Corp., was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
#12: Takata Airbags
A Japanese auto parts manufacturer, Takata was mired in controversy from the very beginning. Its headquarters in Germany saw multiple deaths, and in 1995, the company was at the center of a major seat belt recall. But the biggest (and most expensive) controversy began in 2013. Takata held 20% of the airbag market, but many of them were dangerously defective. Problems with the inflator and propellant resulted in sharp pieces of shrapnel severely injuring and killing occupants of Takata-installed cars. The defective airbags resulted in hundreds of injuries and at least 27 deaths, and over 40 million cars were pulled, making this the largest vehicle-related recall in American history. Takata subsequently went bankrupt in 2017 as a result of the steep costs of compensation.
#11: Toyota Floor Mats
On August 28, 2009, a major news story caught the attention of the nation. An off-duty highway patrol officer was stuck in a speeding car with his family. As the vehicle was traveling at 100 miles per hour, a passenger called 911 and pleaded for help, stating that the brakes weren’t working. The car eventually crashed and all four occupants died. Later investigations revealed that Toyota cars had been linked to thousands of cases of unintended acceleration. The problem was eventually traced to the floor mats in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, which were jamming the gas pedals and causing the vehicles to speed wildly out of control. Millions of cars were recalled, and the accountable floor mats were destroyed and redesigned.
#10: Ford Pinto
Did you know Ford was tried for reckless homicide? In the late 70s, the motor company was taken to court for the deaths of three Indiana teenage girls. The weapon? A Ford Pinto. When this stylish car was hit from behind, the gas tank could explode. It wasn’t the only subcompact car with this problem, but it also emerged that Ford knew about the issue and didn’t fix it. The three teens from Indiana were sitting inside the Pinto when it was struck by a van. The subsequent lawsuit was one of 117 related to rear-end accidents in the Pinto. Ford won that lawsuit, but lost another famous case, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Co., which also involved a fatal fuel tank fire. They recalled the automobile in June 1978,.
#9: Infantino's Baby Slings
“Baby wearing” was a popular trend in the early 2000s. New mothers and fathers would carry babies on their chest in open sling bags. It was a way to keep the baby closer to the parent while running errands and, Infantino touted, it allowed for bonding between parent and infant. However, after three infants suffocated, Infantino recalled their “SlingRider” and “Wendy Bellissimo” slings in 2010, announcing a replacement program. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warned parents not to use the slings for babies under four months, stating that they could restrict breathing and block airways in certain positions.
Kids will eat literally anything (as long as it’s not vegetables) - including completely inedible objects. And it’s this fact that led to the demise of the magnetic toy Buckyballs, which took the US by storm in 2009. Although intended for older children and adults, Buckyballs were often swallowed by children. When two or more were ingested, the super-powerful magnets would connect, causing absolutely horrendous internal tears. In fact, magnet toys caused an estimated 2,900 emergency room visits between 2009 and 2013, including one death. This prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a recall in 2012. In response, Buckyballs inventor Craig Zucker went to war, waging a public relations campaign against the commission! He ultimately lost.
#7: FCKD UP
Remember Four Loko? The alcohol-caffeine beverage was famously banned by some states after a spate of hospitalizations, prompting Four Loko to remove the caffeine, taurine, and guarana. Well, FCKD UP was basically the Canadian version of the original Four Loko ... albeit with way less caffeine. The drink was pulled from convenience store shelves after a teen death in 2018. Fourteen-year-old Athena Gervais was found dead after a house party, and it emerged that she’d been drinking FCKED UP. The media calls the intoxication caused by such concoctions as “wide awake drunk”. Due to this feeling, some people don’t realize how drunk they are until it’s too late.
#6: Infant Sleep Positioners
Produced by multiple companies, infant sleep positioners were marketed as a means to prevent flat-head syndrome, acid reflux, and sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS). However, all of these claims were unproven. Worse, these positioners created a serious suffocation risk. In the 2010s, the FDA flooded the internet and TVs with PSAs warning against their use, linking them to at least 12 deaths. Subsequently, many retailers stopped selling them, and regulatory bodies in other countries issued similar warnings. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a firm, empty surface.
#5: Firestone & Ford Tires
Ford and Firestone have had a business partnership stretching back to 1906. But in the early 2000s, they had a very public fight. According to Ford, the Wilderness AT Tire by Firestone had treads that could separate from the tire and cause blowouts while driving. According to Firestone, the Ford Explorer was to blame, with a faulty design causing the car to roll. It began to feel like a divorce, with each blaming the other for hundreds of fatalities in the US alone. The public were the kids caught in the middle. Eventually though, the tires were recalled and the automobile was redesigned.
#4: Lawn Darts
So, imagine a game of darts, but in your backyard rather than a bar. Sounds fun, right? Now imagine the darts are giant! If you’re thinking ‘well, that sounds a little bit dangerous,’ you’d be more than a little bit right. The needle end of the dart had to be sharp enough to pierce the ground, which also made it sharp enough to pierce people. In the 1970 and 80s, this caused thousands of visits to hospital emergency rooms and at least three deaths, leading to a ban in the United States and Canada. They remain legal however in the EU.
#3: Kinder Surprise Eggs
Since they’re packaged like a Cadbury Creme Egg, it’s understandable that some kids - and adults - would simply pop these large chocolate eggs into their mouths. However, instead of a creamy center, they’d find a less forgiving plastic container with a toy inside. After several deaths due to choking, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned importation of Kinder Surprise. They remain legal however in many other countries - including Canada and Mexico. However, in 2017, a chocolate egg with the toy packaged separately called Kinder Joy finally arrived Stateside.
#2: Crib Bumpers
Heavy blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and plush bumpers might seem like cute and comfortable additions to a baby’s crib. Unfortunately though, crib bumpers were also linked to 77 deaths between 1985 and 2012. This startlingly high number of incidents lead to PSAs warning new parents of the dangers. In response, some states, including Maryland, Ohio, and New York, as well as the city of Chicago, have banned crib bumpers. They’re still available for purchase in other locations, but ongoing efforts aim to ban their manufacturing and importation nationwide.
#1: Milk & Baby Formula
Melamine is used in making multiple products the world over, including flame-retardant paints and plastics. You’re probably now asking: “Why would anyone put that in baby formula?” Well, sadly, the answer is that many companies in China, most prominently the Sanlu Group, were using it to fake high protein values in order to pass quality checks. The problem is that melamine can also cause serious kidney problems. As a result, an estimated 54,000 babies were hospitalized and six died. When the scandal was exposed in 2008, it led to a massive recall, as well as prison and death sentences.